The Command Center: Operation Centers Explained

I remember over 3 years ago when I was desperate to find a decent source online to read about EP. I came across some police related forums that probably had not been posted on since 2009. The members of the forum were discussing working for Gavin De Becker and Associates. And the consensus was, that once you got hired, you worked in the "command center" initially, before you got a chance to do any of the fun stuff (advances, events, travel details, etc). As I read this, my mind wondered because in "The Art of Executive Protection," R. L. Oatman only briefly mentioned command centers… or was it command posts?

Let us dispel any myths and tame minds that are running amok when they here the phrase command center.

Executive protection command center?

A command center is a 24-hour operation center that supports the Executive Protection team. In addition, the command center is generally established on or near the principal’s property, so that it can double as a residential security office. Think of the command center as a home base of sorts.

The command center has access to the principal’s day to day logistical plans, so that they can anticipate the principals' movements, and track them at all times. The command center's responsibility is to be proactive: anticipating threats or inconveniences before they impact the principals. That means knowing traffic conditions where the principal is traveling to, knowing local events taking place that might impact the principal, monitoring the latest social media activity in the area where the principal is traveling to, and knowing where the nearest hospital or police station is, in the event that the principal should need EMS (just to name a few specific measures).

What purpose does it serve for the executive protection team?

The purpose of a 24-hour operations center is to be the centralized information center for the operation. Any member of the EP team, or any principal can call the command center at any time of the day to get assistance.
 
Placement of the command center depends on the operation. The command center may be located at the principal's work location. For example, I suppose that Apple might have Tim Cook's command center located at their corporate headquarters, attached to his home, or maybe he has command centers at both locations. A command center near the principal’s residence will serve as a residential security office and a command center. This means having security staff on the principal’s property at all times, patrolling and monitoring security systems.
 
The specific operations of the command center will depend on the individual operation. Using Apple as an example, Tim Cook's command center would likely monitor (1) his residence (2) the corporate head quarters where he works, and (3) anything else relevant; this might include operations at other Apple facilities, or all of the intricacies of the corporate headquarters (every keycard reader, every alarm, etc.).
 

Who uses a command center?

A command center is generally used by any EP detail that has the man power (resources), and the need for one. The EP specialist that works as a one man show, working for the local mayor, or the local movie star would kill to have a 24-hour support center at their beck and call. However, it would be unlikely for either of those figures to have a command center supporting them.

SIDE NOTE: I’ve been told (by others) that the larger EP firms in California will charge a client upwards of $50,000/month for a command center staffed with two people 24-hours per day, and one EP Specialist (driver, event security, etc). So it can get pricey!

Who works in the command center?

The lowest people on the EP totem pole work in the command center. If the most experienced team members are out working security details, then they need the less experienced members staffed in the command center supporting them.

Generally, about 12 months of working almost exclusively in the command center will precede one ever getting a chance to work on security details. This serves several purposes. First, the new team member can learn about the dynamics of their operation. Second, they can be evaluated before they are thrown out into the field (success in the command center will likely lead to success in the field, or vice versa).
 

Advantages and disadvantages of working in the command center

Advantages

  • Set shift times (generally)
  • Different flavor of responsibility: residential security and command center operations are less stressful than being in the field with the principal.
  • Learn the in's and out's of the EP operation before working in the field

Disadvantages

  • Someone has to work graveyard shift in a 24-hour support center
  • Hours may undermine social life
  • Excellent performance in the command center isn't always recognized
  • Miscellaneous work always gets dumped on the command center
  • The command center worker may have so much on his plate that some situations appear to be lose-lose (how can one monitor several camera systems and simultaneously coordinate logistics with the team in the field, and write their reports on top of that?

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Cheers,
Travis